The U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to give the European Union special rights to speak on behalf of the 27-member bloc at the world body, ending a dispute with other regional groups.
It culminated a long and difficult campaign by the EU to upgrade its status at the U.N. following the December 2009 entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, which was aimed at ensuring the bloc has a more influential say in world affairs.
The vote Tuesday was 180-0 with two abstentions, Syria and Zimbabwe.
The General Assembly rebuffed the EU's initial attempt to enhance its profile, voting last September to put off consideration of a similar resolution.
At that time, Caribbean, African and other nations expressed concern that the EU could wind up with more clout in the General Assembly than their regional groups.
The resolution adopted Tuesday states that the General Assembly may adopt similar arrangements for other regional organizations with observer status in the world body.
It notes that the Lisbon treaty changed the EU's external representation from a rotating presidency to a new post of full-time president, currently held by Belgium's Herman Van Rompuy, and a new foreign policy chief, currently Britain's Catherine Ashton.
Addressing the General Assembly after the vote, Ashton said the resolution will enable EU representatives to promote the bloc's positions with a "clearer voice."
"I believe in the collaboration between the European Union and the United Nations," she said, "and I have made it part of my remit to ensure that the European Union works as closely as possible with the United Nations as we seek to rise to the challenges that we face across the world."
The EU has observer status at the General Assembly and the resolution stipulates its representatives won't have voting rights and can't put forward candidates for U.N. posts.
But the resolution will put the EU higher up on the General Assembly speakers' lists at the annual meeting of world leaders in September and at other high-level meetings. It will also allow the EU to circulate its comments to member states, to present proposals and amendments agreed by EU nations, and to raise points of order and exercise the right to reply.